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Has Paramount+ Cracked the Code for Streaming vs. Theatrical? ‘Clifford’ Success Suggests So

Lauren Forristal

Paramount+ announced that “Clifford the Big Red Dog” broke a new record as the most-watched original film on the service. It also had a strong debut in theaters, earning $22.2 million in domestic box office in its first five days. We’ve seen films succeed direct-to-streaming and direct-to-theater, but “Clifford” is the second Paramount release that scored in both areas. Is this the winning formula?

When ViacomCBS made the decision to only do day-and-date streaming for family films, “Paw Patrol” was its first experiment, and passed with flying colors. The July release became one of the most-watched originals on Paramount+ and generated $37.2 million in domestic theaters with a worldwide gross of $103.3 million. Although this release model was mainly due to the pandemic and to protect their young audience, it seems to be a strategy that will stick.

Chief Programming Officer, ViacomCBS Streaming, Tanya Giles said, “The film’s incredible performance on Paramount+ speaks to the power of entertainment for families to enjoy together, and we look forward to continuing to bring our subscribers more exclusive family-friendly offerings.”

To say the least, ViacomCBS is very proud of their recent decision-making skills. ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said, “For the bigger films … We like to do (a) ‘fast-follow’ theatrical to Pay-1 strategy of 45 days…I continue to think that’s the sweet spot of driving theatrical revenue and streaming growth in general.” Paramount+ has done this with “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Snake Eyes: G.I Joe Origins.”

It’s that separation of dual-release family films and theatrical-only adult films that may become the industry standard. And it makes sense. While some parents will be excited to take their kids to the theater for a day out, others would prefer to stay home and stream. Media companies can make more money with a slower rollout of adult films, and it also prevents piracy that accompanies high-profile films. It would be less likely a parent would pirate a kids’ film.

Warner Bros. and Disney tried simultaneous releases on their respective streaming platforms. Disney+, for instance, had a short-lived Premier Access idea but put it on the back burner after “Jungle Cruise.” More recently, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has hinted that they might bring it back as they keep watch on “the family films as they are released to make sure the market will come back.”

WarnerMedia has been releasing its major motion pictures simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max but has decided to pivot for 2022. CEO Jason Kilar said, “A certain slate of motion pictures that we’ll have exclusive theatrical runs of 45 days…Then, they will go to HBO Max. We’re also going to have motion pictures that will come right to HBO Max on Day One.”

As media companies look to maximize profits for theatrical and streaming, it’s a delicate dance to decide what gets released where. For now, it seems Paramount+ has the right strategy. If competitors follow suit, this could become the new normal for family films.

Clifford the Big Red Dog

November 10, 2021

As Emily struggles to fit in at home and at school, she discovers a small red puppy who is destined to become her best friend. When Clifford magically undergoes one heck of a growth spurt, becomes a gigantic dog and attracts the attention of a genetics company, Emily and her Uncle Casey have to fight the forces of greed as they go on the run across New York City. Along the way, Clifford affects the lives of everyone around him and teaches Emily and her uncle the true meaning of acceptance and unconditional love.

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